VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented European young adults from praying in the New Year together in Turin, Italy, moving the Taize prayer gathering online has allowed them to involve their peers from around the world in proclaiming “hope in good times and bad,” Pope Francis said.

For the first time in more than 40 years, European young people were not filling churches with hours of silent prayer, meditative chanting and a few talks from leaders of the France-based ecumenical Taize community.

Instead, the Dec. 27-Jan. 1 gathering was being held online, with the main talks scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Central European Time (9 a.m. EST) and evening prayer scheduled for 6:45 p.m. CET (12:45 p.m. EST).

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, conveyed Pope Francis’ greetings to the young participants with a message published Dec. 26.

“The very fact of ‘meeting’ each other,” even virtually online, “puts you on the path of hope,” the cardinal wrote, because as Pope Francis has said, “no one can face life in isolation. We need a community that supports us, that helps us and in which we help each other to look ahead.”

“Do not be among those who sow despair and arouse constant distrust,” he told the young adults. Such a cynical attitude “would neutralize the strength of the hope offered to us by the Spirit of the risen Christ.”

Instead, he said, “let yourself be filled with this hope; it will give you the courage to follow Christ and to work together with and for the most needy, especially those who find it hard to face the difficulties of the present time.”